NEW ORLEANS — Standing in the center of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook didn't shy away from the issue he said is already destroying Louisianans' lives.   

"Here today, in this very place, in an arena where thousands once found desperate shelter from a 100-year disaster, the kind that seem to be happening more and more frequently, I don’t think we can talk about who we are as people, and what we owe to one and other, without talking about climate change," Cook said. 

In front of more than 3,000 students graduating from Tulane University and their friends and family, Cook gave a commencement speech that urged those with new degrees -- those who may not be directly impacted by the reality of climate change -- to stand up for those most at risk. 

"It’s about who has won life’s lottery and has the luxury of ignoring this issue, and who stands to lose everything," Cook said. 

Those already affected, he said, include: 

"The coastal communities, including some right here in Louisiana, that are already making plans to leave behind the places they’ve called home for generations and head for higher ground; the fisherman whose nets come up empty; the wildlife preserves with less wildlife to preserve; the marginalized, for whom a natural disaster can mean enduring poverty." 

Cook, an executive and industrial engineer who joined Apple Inc. in 1998 under co-founder Steve Jobs, highlighted one Tulane graduate's work as an example for change.  

"Just ask Tulane’s own Molly Keogh, who’s getting her Ph.D. this weekend. Her important new research shows that rising sea levels are devastating areas of southern Louisiana more dramatically than anyone expected," he said. 

Keogh has worked with Tulane and local authorities to study how to restore disappearing marshland using water diversions for the Mississippi River, according to the school's website

Cook also called upon the words of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, saying the time has come for young people to once again change the world, the same sentiment Roosevelt expressed during a speech to college students in 1932, Cook said.    

"When we talk about climate change or any issue with human cost, and there are many, I challenge you to look for those who have the most to lose and find the real, true empathy that comes from something shared. That is really what we owe one another," Cook said.

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In April, Cook said at the Time 100 Summit in New York City that he believes in doing "what's right" when it comes to addressing issues that he believes his business has weight in, according to Fortune.

As commencement speaker, Cook joined other public figures in receiving honorary Tulane degrees like civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis, actress Blythe Danner and New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Watch Cook's full commencement speech here and read his section on climate change below: 

"Don’t assume that by staying put, the ground won’t move from underneath your feet.

In some important ways, my generation has failed you in this regard. We’ve spent too much time debating, we’ve been too focused on the fight and not focused enough on progress. You don’t need to look far to find an example of that failure. 

Here today, in this very place, in an arena where thousands once found desperate shelter from a 100-year disaster, the kind that seem to be happening more and more frequently, I don’t think we can talk about who we are as people, and what we owe to one and other, without talking about climate change.

This problem doesn’t get any easier based on whose side wins or loses an election. It’s about who has won life’s lottery and has the luxury of ignoring this issue, and who stands to lose everything. 

The coastal communities, including some right here in Louisiana, that are already making plans to leave behind the places they’ve called home for generations and head for higher ground; the fisherman who’s nets come up empty; the wildlife preserves with less wildlife to preserve; the marginalized, for whom a natural disaster can mean enduring poverty. 

Just ask Tulane’s own Molly Keogh, who’s getting her PhD this weekend. Her important new research shows that rising sea levels are devastating areas of southern Louisiana more dramatically than anyone expected. 

Tulane graduates, these are peoples’ homes, their livelihoods, the land where their grandparents were born, lived and died. 

When we talk about climate change or any issue with human cost, and there are many, I challenge you to look for those who have the most to lose and find the real, true empathy that comes from something shared. That is really what we owe one another. 

When you do that, the political noise dies down and you can feel your feet firmly planted on solid ground. After all, we don’t build monuments to trolls and weren’t going to start now."

Seán Brennan can be reached at sbrennan@wwltv.com