Blue Planet Prize

Blue Planet Prize aims to safeguard the Earth

Awards ceremony: The Asahi Glass Foundation Chairman Tetsuji Tanaka (left in both photos) hands a trophy to Taroh Matsuno (left photo) and Daniel Sperling (right photo) during the 2013 Blue Planet Prize Awards Ceremony in Tokyo on Oct. 30. SATOKO KAWASAKI

The Blue Planet Prize was founded by The Asahi Glass Foundation in 1992 to honor people or groups in science and technology who make great contributions to solving environmental issues.

That was the same year that countries attended the Earth Summit, or the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and pledged to work to repair the environment.

"Of the various global problems we are urged to solve, the most important one is the preservation of the global environment," The Asahi Glass Foundation, established by Asahi Glass Co., says in its pamphlet.

"Global warming, acid rain, destruction of the ozone layer, deforestation in the tropical zone, river and oceanic pollution, and other conditions worsening the Earth's environment are caused by the effects of the human race's economic activities and daily lives on mother nature."

The name of the prize "Blue Planet" comes from the remark by Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to look at the Earth from space, "The Earth was blue."

"We gave the prize this name out of the prayer that this blue planet will continue to exist as a gift shared by all humans in the future," the foundation says.

The Asahi Glass Foundation was established in 1933 as the Asahi Foundation for Chemical Industry Promotion, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of Asahi Glass Co. It first focused on fostering research in the field of applied chemistry.

But in 1990, it undertook an overall redesign of its programs, expanding the scope of its activities and establishing its commendation program. In the same year, it was renamed The Asahi Glass Foundation.

The Blue Planet Prize is part of the commendation program. The foundation confers the prize on two people or a person and a group every year. Prizewinners receive a diploma, a trophy and ¥50 million.

This year, scientists Taroh Matsuno of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and Daniel Sperling of the University of California, Davis, have been awarded the 2013 international Blue Planet Prize.

The two were conferred the prize in Tokyo on Oct. 30.

Matsuno, 79, was recognized for his contributions to raising awareness of global warming and climate change by his leadership in climatology research. His research includes predictions of climate change using the Earth Simulator supercomputer. He also played an important role in discovering the causes of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino.

Sperling, 62, was credited for contributing to urban environmental policies through his research on the environmental impact of traffic systems. He was involved in creating the legislation on preventing pollution in California, which became a guideline for urban development, including traffic systems, around the world.

For the 2013 prize, 650 Japanese and another 650 non-Japanese nominators recommended 106 candidates. By category, there were 26 in environmental economy and policy, 24 in ecosystem, 17 in climate and earth science, 13 in multiple fields and others.

The candidates were from 27 countries and 22 candidates were from developing nations, accounting for about 20 percent of all candidates. The selection committee went through several screenings before selecting Matsuno and Sperling.

Further Information

Predicting future climate patterns

Taroh Matsuno is a modest man who wants to give credit to young scientists for various achievements in his research field — climate study. "I shouldn't be a main character. The main characters are young researchers who actually do a ...

Environment as public policy

Daniel Sperling wears two different, difficult but very important hats — an academic and a regulator. Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, and a professor of civil engineering and environmental science ...