Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy said Monday that failure to address climate change by the incoming Trump administration would leave the country in environmental and economic "paralysis."

"If we place rancor over action, we will fall victim to our own paralysis," McCarthy said.

"The train to a global clean energy future has already left the station," she told a packed ballroom at the National Press Club in Washington. And the U.S. cannot choose to be left behind.

The Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama's climate agenda, "marked a turning point" as a sign of U.S. commitment to combat global warming. But tackling climate change is bigger than any one regulation, she said.

"Our task is timeless, it is nonpartisan," she said. "We cannot neglect to continue to support those hard-working Americans," she said, taking pains to demonstrate the EPA's benefit to helping workers live their lives.

She said voters may be "fed up with what they hear out of Washington," but that doesn't mean they don't care about clean air and water.

McCarthy said the EPA "will be here" and isn't going anywhere because of what citizens expect from the agency and environmental safety regulators. "We stand between pollution and people," she said.

"People expect us to do our jobs," McCarthy said. "People expect us to use change as a catalyst."