The former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has told a London audience that those who questioned climate change science were being treated like victims of the Spanish Inquisition.

Abbott told the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which is a climate sceptic thinktank, that climate change was "probably doing good" and that anything implemented to halt it was akin to "primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods" .

He said on Monday (9 October) in the think tank's annual lecture that there was evidence high concentrations of carbon dioxide "are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields".

"In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heatwaves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it's accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial," Abbott said, according to the Guardian, which reported that it had obtained a copy of his speech, although it had been denied entry to the event.

"It's climate change policy that's doing harm. Climate change itself is probably doing good, or at least, more good than harm," he added.

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott will beguest-of-honoura
Former Australian PM Tony Abbott Getty Images

The issue of climate change policy has been a divisive topic in Australia and Abbott has opposed renewable energy policies since he left the premiership in September 2015.

Figures show that Australia is the only wealthy nation still beating energy emissions records.

Meanwhile it was reported that the Australian government is likely not to follow the country's chief scientist recommendation for a clean energy target, which Abbott has welcomed.

But former Australian Liberal party leader John Hewson told the Guardian that the speech by Abbott showed he was in "like-minded, if disturbingly deluded, company".

"His (Abbott's) basic thrust is that if you can't understand it, don't believe it, or accept it.

"When it comes to climate, and the magnitude and urgency of the challenge, Abbott is prepared to deny the undeniable, and to ignore the risks and costs if left to future generations," Hewson said.

The GWPF is chaired by renowned climate change sceptic and former chancellor under Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson.