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December 9th, 2009
11:44 AM ET

New Orleans a test case for global warming

Katrina evacuees cross the Industrial Canal.

Katrina evacuees cross the Industrial Canal.

Tom Darden
Special to CNN

Copenhagen, Denmark, is 5,000 miles away from New Orleans, Louisiana. But representatives of the 192 nations gathering this week at the climate change conference need to keep the memory of a flooded New Orleans in mind.

Two years ago this month, the Make It Right Foundation was launched to help the families of New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward rebuild their lives and community. That was already two years after Katrina, and the once-vibrant neighborhood was still in ruins, failed by government and frustrated by a lack of progress.

Working with the Lower 9th Ward community, with families who lost everything in Katrina, with cutting-edge architects and inventive builders, we learned some truths and made some discoveries we would like to share with the climate change negotiators in Copenhagen:

We need urgent action. Climate change is real and happening now. The world already is reeling from the consequences - rising sea levels, more violent storms, more frequent flooding and prolonged droughts. Hurricane Katrina, the killer heat wave in Europe, China's floods and the enduring drought in Australia are not anomalies, they are harbingers.

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