(Image: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

For decades, Australia's governing class -- politicians, policymakers, economists, journalists, business leaders -- have patted themselves on the back for their success in the core business of public policy: the unprecedented global feat of nearly three decades of economic growth, including avoiding the 2008 global recession.

While they were achieving that, however, they were also preparing a climate catastrophe that would cost the lives of, so far, 28 Australians, inflict an unimaginable toll on the country's ecosystems, impose colossal health costs on the residents of our largest cities and inflict tens of billions in economic costs.

It's the greatest policy failure of a generation, much worse than the debacle of the Iraq War or the early nineties recession. And no one has any excuses. This summer's catastrophe -- which will be a forerunner of similar summers to come -- is exactly what scientists have repeatedly, for decades, warned would happen.