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Climate Change Causes Heat Waves in India and Pakistan

Extreme heat waves have engulfed India and Pakistan since March, with temperatures rising to up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), according to NASA. The temperatures, which are higher than average, are a result of climate change.

The effects of the heat waves include death, illness, reduced crop yields, poor air quality, and one of the worst electricity shortages in more than six years as power demands go up. While heat waves are common in the region this time of year, the number of spring heat waves has been increasing as global warming intensifies.

The deadly heat waves have also caused India — the world’s second-largest wheat producer — to ban wheat exports. India initially planned to fill the gap left by Ukraine and Russia, which together export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat. This and other factors have driven up global food prices — agricultural prices are up 41% compared to January 2021, with wheat prices up by 60%.

Global Supply Chain Woes Grow

Global supply chain disruptions are growing worse as the crisis in Ukraine continues and a new wave of the Omicron variant sweeps China, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Global Supply Chain Pressure Index. In April 2022, supply chain pressures increased for the first time since December 2021.

China’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy put the greatest pressure on supply chains in April, as lockdown measures in major cities cause shipping, air freight, and trucking delays and freight backlogs worldwide. European delivery times were also delayed, as Russia’s attacks on Ukraine disrupt trade routes through both countries. Increasing airfreight costs from the U.S. to Asia, due in part to a surge in jet fuel prices, were also a factor.  

From December 2021 to March 2022, the NY Fed reported an overall easing of pressures on supply chains, though they remained at historically high levels. Last month’s data and the likelihood of future geopolitical tensions are likely to increase supply chain pressures in the near term.

NOAA Warns of Severe Hurricane Season

Forecasters at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting an above-average hurricane season this year, with up to 21 storms between June and November 30. 

NOAA estimates there is a 65% chance that the 2022 season is above average, with only a 25% chance of a near-normal season. Of the 14 to 21 named storms, NOAA predicts six to 10 of these could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), and three to six could be major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher). This will be the seventh consecutive season with above-average hurricane activity.

As climate change impacts weather patterns, natural disasters like wildfires and hurricanes will be more extreme and their seasons will last longer. The more intense hurricane activity this season is due to “several climate factors, including the ongoing La Niña, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, warmer sea surface temperatures, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon,” NOAA says. 

Colombia Leans Left in Election Run Up

Colombia may elect a leftwing government for the first time in years in its upcoming presidential election, potentially changing its relationship with the United States. 

New polls show radical left candidate Gustavo Petro in the lead over more conservative competitors, center-right Federico Gutiérrez and populist Rodolfo Hernández, in advance of this weekend’s May 29 election. Experts say the election will likely go to a run-off in June, as no candidate is likely to get over 50% of the vote.

Petro has promised sweeping changes, including renegotiating Colombia’s free trade agreement with the U.S., legalizing the drug trade, and restoring diplomatic relations with Venezuela, whose president the U.S. doesn’t recognize. His campaign promises have made business leaders and landowners nervous, reports the Financial Times, and Colombia’s central bank, Banco de la República, says it has seen capital flight from the country leading up to the election.

U.S. Mortgage Debt Rises to $11 Trillion

American household debt has risen to nearly $16 trillion, in large part driven by over $11 trillion in mortgage debt, shows a new report from The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The record-high debt comes as inflation and interest rates also hit new highs.

Mortgage debt — which rose by $250 billion in the first quarter of 2022 — makes up 71% of all household debt. Mortgage originations have increased by $197 billion since the start of the pandemic, a result of Americans relocating from cities and buying homes in the suburbs. This urban flight, driven by a desire for more space amid lockdowns and remote work, has also pushed the median home price up by 30% over the last two years.

Non-housing debt, such as student loans, automobile loans and credit card debt, grew by $17 billion in the first quarter, largely due to a $14 billion increase in student loans. Overall, household debt has increased by nearly $2 trillion since before COVID-19.

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