EPA chief Scott Pruitt declines to say whether Trump believes in climate change

Pruitt: Focus was whether Paris accord was good or bad

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday declined to say whether President Donald Trump believes that climate change is real.

Pruitt was asked that question three times during an appearance at the daily White House press briefing and refused to answer "yes" or "no" both times.  The EPA chief spoke extensively with Trump during deliberations over leaving the Paris climate agreement, but suggested the president's stance on climate change had not come up.

"All the discussions we had through the last several weeks have been focused on one singular issue: Is Paris good or not for this country. That's the discussions I've had with the president."

Trump has called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese in the past. On Thursday, he announced he would pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which Pruitt advised him to do.

Pruitt himself has consistently expressed doubts about mankind's roll in global warming. In March, he told CNBC he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt says carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming

The statement contradicts the public stance of the agency Pruitt leads. The EPA's webpage on the causes of climate change states, "Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change."

Pruitt's view is also at odds with the conclusion of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On Friday, Pruitt said he believes global warming is happening and human activity "contributes" to it "in some manner." However, he accused some of exaggerating its effects.

"People have called me a climate skeptic or a climate denier. I don't know what it means to deny the climate. I would say that there are climate exaggerators," Pruitt said.

"What the American people deserve is a debate, transparent discussion about this issue. What Paris represents is an international agreement that puts this country at a disadvantage with very little benefit environmentally across the globe."

The Paris Agreement requires nearly every country in the world to submit plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but does not bind them legally to achieve those targets. Under President Barack Obama, the United States has vowed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this story.