He noted the “incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened” and he wanted to be able to return to view it one day with his daughters.
“We can get this done. And it is necessary to get this done,” he said.
Mr Abbott was furious and some of his staff believed they were “payback” from Mr Podesta after the meeting in DC, Wilkinson writes. But Mr Obama’s speechwriter Ben Rhodes says this is not the case.
“What was interesting is that the [written] speech had a short section on climate, but then in delivery Obama ad-libbed in a much longer section completely on his own,” he told Wilkinson.
Mr Abbott’s climate views were significant to the White House at the time because Mr Obama wanted to ensure the 2015 Paris climate talks ended with an agreement. To that end in early 2014 he signed a bilateral agreement with China to cut emissions, and he wanted to continue diplomatic momentum at the Brisbane G20 meeting.
This week it was reported that Mr Abbott has been appointed as an adviser to the British Board of Trade, which is now in talks with the EU.
Though Mr Abbott’s role has not been officially confirmed, the pro-leave campaigner and Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg called it “an excellent appointment”.
Both the EU and the UK have been far more determined than Australia on climate change, with the UK being the first major economy to set a net zero by 2050 carbon target into law.
Wilkinson’s book, out next week, notes that during a speech in London in 2017 Mr Abbott suggested climate change was “probably doing some good” and likened policies against it as akin to “primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods”.
In an interview for the book, Mr Abbott describes the basic science of climate change as “hocus pocus”.
Asked about his view of the concerns of the leaders of Australia’s neighbours in low-lying South Pacific island nations, who had been pushing for the Paris climate agreement to hold global warming to 1.5 rather than 2 degrees, Mr Abbott told Wilkinson he regarded the idea as “ridiculous”.
“I always regarded this as hocus pocus,” Mr Abbott said. “This idea that somehow we could turn the thermostat up or down by adjustments to carbon dioxide, I mean I absolutely accept that climate change happens, mankind makes a contribution, we have to take prudent sensible measures to deal with it. But … the idea you could make micro-changes to the globe’s thermostat by having a few millions more or less tons of carbon dioxide was always, I thought, fairly dubious.”