The climate change debate took a sharp left turn on Tuesday when several former cabinet secretaries, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a key Wall Street donor to environmental causes said companies that don't buy into global warming should be punished and penalized.

While the Obama administration has called for polluters to clean up their operations, the former government and business leader said the hammer should come down on business that ignore the potential impact of climate change on their companies and rewards such as greater investment be doled out to those that do.

"We need to reward people whose behavior reduces climate risk and penalize people who add to it,” said Thomas Steyer, a former hedge fund manager and environmentalist who is a major player and funder of climate change initiatives. “Climate risk should be taken into account by every business and every investor,” he said at a New York press conference to unveil a report on how global warming could cool the U.S. economy.

He is one of the leaders with Bloomberg, three former Clinton cabinet members and former Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, of the Risky Business Project that released Tuesday's "Risky Business" report. Steyer and members of his group plan to discuss it with White House officials Wednesday.

Overall, the report said that climate change could cost East Coast business and governments $35 billion a year. In other areas of the nation, said Bloomberg, it will be too hot to work outside. And he also warned of a “really scary” potential that tree-killing bugs might not be limited by cold winters.

Paulson called for an end to caution and demanded governments jump in to regulate climate change.

“The good news is, if we act immediately we can avoid the very worst outcomes,” he said. “So a huge takeaway here is that taking a cautious approach, waiting for more information, a business as usual approach, is actually radical risk taking,” he added.

It is, he concluded, “very important that government and business act soon.”

The report and the group, however, were slapped down by critics as wealthy businessmen calling for new climate change taxes that will impact the poor and middle class.

Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, said, "This morning, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former US Treasury Secretary and investor-class Republican Hank Paulson, along with others, released their report titled, Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States. Although not explicitly stated, the goal of this report is to promote a carbon dioxide pricing scheme such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, which, if implemented, would levy huge costs on the American people.

"This report is yet another PR scare tactic to convince people that our most reliable energy resources are bad for us, when in fact, the opposite is true. America’s environment, air quality, and standard of living is better in large part because of our energy use."

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at