The foundation said Sperling, the founding director of UC Davis' Institute of Transportation Studies, "has devoted his career to mitigating climate change and accelerating the global transition to cleaner, more efficient transportation and energy."
In remarks posted on the foundation's website, Sperling said he would commit "the rest of my career to leveraging the tremendous reservoir of knowledge embedded in universities to enhance public policy, in particular policy that shifts the world away from the pending disaster of climate change."
"Humans are engaged in a risky experiment that need not end in disaster," he continued. "Solutions are all around us. New technologies and new behaviors will transform our cities and energy systems. ... It is not easy, but with great effort we can recover our healthy blue planet."
Sperling, who has testified numerous times before Congress and written more than 10 books, was appointed to the California Air Resources Board in 2007.
Taroh Matsuno, principal scientist at the Research Institute for Global Change at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, was also a recipient of the prize, which is awarded to two individuals or organizations.
The award's name comes from Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's statement that the Earth appeared blue when viewed from space.