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Scott Pruitt's climate denial is dangerous and 'out of step'

Recently, new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said that he does not agree that carbon dioxide emissions are a primary contributor to global warming.

This is, of course, simply not true. And he should realize that he is hurting the American people and our economy when he tries to inject doubt into proven science.

The reality of climate change should encourage Mr. Pruitt to be even more clear-eyed and pragmatic, and to recognize that taking action to reduce carbon pollution is necessary to put the nation's economy on a strong long-term path.

Businesses thrive when they make smart decisions based on the best available information. The reality is that climate change is happening now and is having wide-ranging ripple effects on businesses – both on their direct operations and global supply chains.

Making evidence-based calculations about the future is what companies call managing risks. Tackling risks creates enormous business opportunities – something we're already seeing as the clean energy economy is creating hundreds of thousands of jobs all across the country. Ignoring risks and long-term trends for short-term benefits is how to drive a company - and the economy - into the ground.

The American business community is strongly united in recognizing the need for climate action. Close to 900 companies and investors have called on President Trump and Congress to support the Paris Climate Agreement and low-carbon policies that will help the U.S. achieve its carbon-reducing commitments. Industry giants like DuPont, eBay, General Mills, Mars Inc., Nike, PG&E and VF Corporation are among those telling the Trump administration that the low-carbon future is coming, and businesses need to plan for it.

"This doesn't need to be a partisan political issue. Just look at the Climate Leadership Council, a group of prominent Republicans, including former U.S. secretaries of State and Treasury, who are pushing a proposal to put a price on carbon in exchange for reducing other regulations."

That's why even oil companies like ConocoPhillips recommend the U.S. stay in the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. It's also one of the reasons dozens of Fortune 500 companies are moving to meet all of their electricity needs with 100 percent renewable energy.

This doesn't need to be a partisan political issue. Just look at the Climate Leadership Council, a group of prominent Republicans, including former U.S. secretaries of State and Treasury, who are pushing a proposal to put a price on carbon in exchange for reducing other regulations. While details of the proposal raise significant concerns, it nonetheless sends a powerful message about the seriousness of climate change. As James Baker, the former Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush said last month, the risks of climate change are "too great to ignore."

Mr. Pruitt's denial of the obvious is strikingly out of step. A new Yale University study shows that a strong majority of Americans trust science experts on global warming and, most importantly, support regulating carbon emissions as a pollutant.

Many GOP governors across the country are also taking climate action because they see the huge economic and job-creation opportunities of supporting clean energy growth in their states. The wind power industry alone has attracted $140 billion into the U.S. economy over the past decade, with the biggest beneficiaries being Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Mr. Pruitt's home state, Oklahoma, which all generated at least 20 percent of their energy with wind last year.

Governing is about debating differing approaches to solving the problems facing America. When the evidence is so overwhelming, the debate to be had is about the best way to enact climate solutions, not a know-nothing rejection of the problem itself and reckless disregard for the truth.

If Mr. Pruitt were a business executive who denied reality in this way, his tenure in that role would be short lived.

Commentary by Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability organization mobilizing the world's largest investors and companies to take stronger action on climate change, water scarcity and other global sustainability challenges. She previously served as the US EPA Regional Administrator for New England.

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Watch: The full Pruitt interview