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London, Los Angeles, Beijing: Reflections on smoggy weather

Peking University, Mar. 26, 2013: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Quoting philosopher George Santayana, Professor Michael Hoffmann expressed his concern for deteriorating air conditions and  the prevalence of atmospheric hazes in cities around the world.


As a member of the US National Academy of Engineering engaged in the study of air pollution since 1968, Professor Hoffmann shared his insights about global air conditions with the audience at PKU on the evening of March 22.


Professor Hoffmann


From a historical perspective, the Great Smog of London and the Los Angeles photochemical smog served as two typical cases to demonstrate the occurrence and evolution of air pollution. “Noxious gases like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide and the effect of temperature inversion are the main factors which trigger atmospheric hazes,” he said.


Meanwhile, Professor Hoffmann expressed his worry about the air condition of Beijing. “During this persisting smog, the particulate matters (PM) from Beijing were detectable even on the southern coast of the US. No country can be immune to air pollution because the pollutants are always diffusing in the atmosphere. If we cannot effectively treat air pollution, everyone will be the victim.”


Based on the countermeasures employed by London and Los Angeles, Professor Hoffmann dilated upon a detailed plan in dealing with air pollution in Beijing, including a ban on burning garbage and promotion of clean energy use. “To achieve this goal, we not only need scientific approaches, but also require environmental awareness among individuals,” he explained, adding that “we need to take history as a mirror.”


Background Info:

Michael Hoffmann is the third lecturer of the “2013 Detao Master Forum” of PKU.


The series, jointly hosted by the PKU College of Engineering, PKU Youth League Committee, and Detao Masters Academy (DTMA), is one of the PKU optional courses.


More information about the lectures can be found on the DTMA website.



Written by: Li Wenrui
Edited by: Xu Xinyi
PKU College of Engineering