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Uncle Cliff and the Disclaimers

For those of you who know me, you also know that there are times when I just can’t keep my mouth shut. I’m kind of like my Uncle Clifford in that respect. “Cliffy,” as my mother called him, was known to shoot off letters to the editor almost, it seemed, once a week.

Over time, I’ve come to appreciate his dedication to taking issue with what he saw - to put it politely - as a heap of cow dung, especially on July 27th, 2023, when I read an excellent article in the Winnipeg Free Press called “Too Close to A Tipping Point” by F.D. Flam. It’s a well researched and alarming opinion piece summarizing how, based on this year’s warning signals and extreme weather events, our small blue planet may be barrelling toward a tipping point faster than we think.

So imagine my shock when I got to the end of the article and read this:

“F.D. Flam is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering science…This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.”

When I first read the disclaimer, I thought the editorial board referenced was that of the Free Press but given that they’ve published some pretty frank opinion pieces on climate change without any disclaimer - some of them by me - I decided that was pretty unlikely. A much more likely candidate was the editorial board of Bloomberg News, a subsidiary of the finance, data and software conglomerate Bloomberg LP which owns, among other things, a global TV network, a wire service and two magazines.

So why the elaborate disclaimer for an article where the facts presented are well documented and any speculation comes out of the mouth of a scientist, not the pen of the writer? Even more puzzling, why is it that when I went to the news site for a Spokane Washington newspaper called The Spokesman Review, I found the same article published with no disclaimer.

Bloomberg News, perhaps predictably, would not let me access the original article unless I signed up for a free trial which, apparently, would then revert to a paid subscription unless I remembered to cancel it, which I wouldn’t. So I skipped it.

It’s a bit of head scratcher isn’t it? - a disclaimer for an article republished in a Canadian newspaper and none when it’s republished in the USA.

And why did Bloomberg News decide the article needed a disclaimer in the first place?

Well, maybe it’s related to the fact that Bloomberg News caters, in large part, to the business and financial sectors, including the fossil fuel industry. Or to be really generous, perhaps they just didn’t want ten thousand emails from conspiracy-theory ladened climate deniers. And maybe The Free Press, unlike the Spokane newspaper, reprinted the disclaimer as it appeared in Bloomberg News and didn’t think to delete it.

Whatever the motives or lapses, it made me furious.

So I’ve attached my letter to the editor, responding to a disclaimer for an article about which there is nothing to disclaim!

I think my Uncle Cliff would approve.

Letter to the Editor:

Re: Too close to a tipping point (Think Tank, Winnipeg Free Press, July 26)

I was shocked to see a disclaimer at the end of F.D. Flams article. Apparently, the views expressed in this well-researched and alarming article “do not reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners,” the company which employs Flam.


Is it then the opinion of the editors that we are not fast approaching a 1.5-degree increase in global temperature or are they taking issue with the fact that this summer’s climate catastrophes may represent what one scientist calls flickering — possible portents of an even more rapidly approaching, temperature-driven tipping point.

If that’s the case then the editorial board and company referenced really need to do some serious climate research of their own, because their “opinion” is clearly not keeping pace with science. While the timing and details may be difficult to predict, the fact that this planet is, in geological terms, barrelling toward a tipping point on a cloud of human-generated CO2 is not a matter of “opinion.” Nor is it up for debate.

Erna Buffie


*Picture courtesy of Brad Diller


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