Enlarge / A newly revealed research proposal from 1971 shows that Richard Nixon’s science advisors embarked on an extensive analysis of the potential risks of climate change. (credit: Oliver Atkins/National Archives)

In 1971, President Richard Nixon’s science advisers proposed a multimillion dollar climate change research project with benefits they said were too “immense” to be quantified, since they involved “ensuring man’s survival,” according to a White House document newly obtained by the nonprofit National Security Archive and shared exclusively with Inside Climate News.

The plan would have established six global and 10 regional monitoring stations in remote locations to collect data on carbon dioxide, solar radiation, aerosols and other factors that exert influence on the atmosphere. It would have engaged five government agencies in a six-year initiative, with spending of $23 million in the project’s peak year of 1974—the equivalent of $172 million in today’s dollars. It would have used then-cutting-edge technology, some of which is only now being widely implemented in carbon monitoring more than 50 years later.

But it stands as yet another lost opportunity early on the road to the climate crisis. Researchers at the National Security Archive, based at the George Washington University, could find no documentation of what happened to the proposal, and it was never implemented.

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