By Alex Newman

RIO DE JANEIRO — Amid the thousands of people assembled at the United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development calling for global government and anti-market “solutions” to alleged planetary “sustainability” and “biodiversity” problems, a vocal coalition of environmental realists who refuse to buy the UN-backed agenda are calling for some sanity — market solutions, real science, and national sovereignty. Some have even proposed abolishing the controversial global institution altogether.

While the international press has largely ignored the stinging criticism so far, the small cadre of liberty-minded environmental experts, activists, and lawmakers seemed optimistic. The climate alarmism of a few years ago, for example, is virtually “dead” despite overwhelming media support.

On Thursday, following the stunning implosion of the science behind global-warming theories, the whole topic has largely taken a back seat to new UN allegations — overpopulation, decreasing biodiversity, and a lack of “sustainability.” But those overhyped fears may well collapse soon as well….

Among the most prominent opponents lambasting the UN and its lavish Rio+20 “sustainability” conference was U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member on the Senate Environment Committee. Appearing at a conference via video, the well-known skeptic of “global-warming” alarmism blasted the worldwide “far-left” agenda to impose carbon taxes and redistribute wealth. “Whatever happened to sovereignty?” he asked.

However, there is cause for celebration, the GOP heavyweight said, pointing to the complete lack of interest by top U.S. political leaders in the UN summit. “President Obama is avoiding it like the plague,” Sen. Inhofe noted, adding that his “absence speaks volumes” — especially considering his “far-left agenda” and its alignment with UN ambitions. Meanwhile, members of Congress including notorious pro-UN Democrats are ignoring Rio+20 as well, a stark contrast with past environmental gatherings.

Other critics of the global body’s agenda offered even harsher criticism during the conference. Lord Christopher Monckton, a former science policy advisor to U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and a well-known advocate for real science and human liberty, slammed the entire UN summit and declared that its dangerous agenda should fail.

He also highlighted the even-worse-than-usual secrecy surrounding the Rio+20 negotiations. “What have they got to hide?” Lord Monckton wondered, noting that, despite its claims, the whole summit had nothing to do with the environment. “It’s all about extending the power and reach of the global-government wannabes.”

Citing UN documents, Lord Monckton said the summit and the broader agenda were actually about the ambition of the “governing class” to “rule the world with as few constraints as possible.” Of course, there are real environmental problems, he added. But they should be addressed at the local and national level — and by the free market — not by out-of-control planetary bureaucrats he said were seeking to create a “world socialist” regime, he told The New American.

“Does anyone really think that the UN would be a better allocator of resources?” Lord Monckton wondered, noting that government consumes about twice as many resources to accomplish the same task as the private sector. What is going on at Rio+20, he concluded, is an “attempted coup on a global scale by the governing class against the people.”

….  More than a few critics of the agenda believe money has a lot to do with it. “The UN and the Greens are spoiled and want more,” noted Executive Director Craig Rucker of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a U.S.-based organization focused on development and environmental issues. “The operators currently running the show at the UN will not surrender their hold on taxpayer money without a fight.”

But CFACT, which has been among the most active groups in opposing global big-government schemes being advanced under the guise of environmentalism, has not lost hope either. “It is not too late to rescue Rio+20,” Rucker said from the summit. “The UN should strip all of the taxes, invasions of sovereignty and bureaucratic empire building out of the Rio text…. Individual freedom, free enterprise, prosperity, respect for private property and the rule of law are the proven paths to accomplish all that is the best for people and the planet too.”

Rucker also expressed hope that the UN’s grandiose vision of increased powers for itself and more centralization at the international level would not come to fruition. Global warming, he noted, is the “dead elephant in the room.” And the latest “causes” will be exposed eventually as well.

According to Rucker, it might even be time to consign the entire international institution — many critics refer to it as a “dictators club” — to the dustbin of history. He told The New American that it has been under the control of radicals for some five decades and that it might not even be possible to fix it anymore.

Despite the lack of establishment media coverage — much of the press corps here is actually just “former environmental activists” — Rucker said the people of the world were waking up. For the sake of the 1.4 billion people living in poverty, he concluded, humanity must reject the UN vision of so-called “sustainable development.”

Climate Depot editor Marc Morano, who operates one of the most popular news services exposing the UN’s claims, is optimistic as well. “The message here is very simple: what a difference 20 years makes,” he said, referring to the first Earth Summit two decades ago, attended by President George H.W. Bush and other world leaders.

This time, he said, U.S. officials were keeping their distance from the latest global confab. Meanwhile, the people are increasingly rejecting the radical agenda. And scientists, including many who have been affiliated with the UN, are jumping ship in growing numbers as well.

At Rio+20, all that is left from a few years ago is the “carcass of the climate process” on display for all to see, Morano explained. The largely dead “climate scare” is now being downplayed and incorporated into new fear-mongering tactics to advance the same schemes — government control and perpetual poverty for developing nations.

But it is unlikely to succeed, Morano concluded, pointing to surveys showing Americans’ encouraging attitudes toward the hysteria. The proverbial “jig” might be up very soon.

“Failure here is good for the world’s poor people,” Morano added, challenging billionaires like Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson in attendance to reduce their own “carbon footprint” before lecturing the planet’s neediest populations about their alleged harmful impact on the environment. “Carbon energy is one of the greatest liberators of mankind.”

Alex Newman is an American freelance writer and the president of Liberty Sentinel Media Inc., a small media consulting firm.  Photo of Lord Monckton and Craig Rucker: The New American/Adam Muggenthaler.

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