This past Thursday, I visited St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans, where the impacts of Hurricane Katrina are still visible and many families are still struggling to recover from that devastating storm. I was there to participate in building an energy efficient home for one of those families, as part of the St. Bernard Project -- which works with volunteers, veterans and homeowners to rebuild sustainable communities.
I saw great need, but also witnessed great courage and a great American spirit in those who have not given up hope. House by house, block by block, volunteers are working tirelessly to turn hope into reality. Their efforts to provide the residents of New Orleans with sustainable, energy efficient housing inspired me and served as a reminder of what’s possible when Americans come together to meet a common goal.
With its unique geography and proximity to sea level, New Orleans has always been more vulnerable to hurricanes than other places in America. I was struck by the fact, however, that in the coming decades, more and more American communities – and millions of people around the world – will likely find themselves facing increased risks of escalating storm surges and higher sea levels. It is one of the unfortunate realities of climate change, and another compelling reason for us to take action. Think of it as a low cost version of prudent insurance.
Steven Chu is the Secretary of Energy.