Tourism and Environmental Health in a Changing Climate

We cannot solve the greatest challenges to health by working in isolation. That is why we provide entrepreneurs and government ministries with ways to measure, report, and mitigate environmental and climate change impacts on communities that are dependent on tourism.

As we face the growing probability that climate change will undermine the enormous value of tourism investments worldwide, and as the impacts of climate change continue to escalate, nations and entrepreneurs have barely begun to deliberate on the impacts climate change will have on tourism-dependent countries and their communities. We accelerate the response by helping industry measure, report, mitigate, and adapt in order to garner the substantial human and financial resources required to help local destinations decarbonize and deploy proven approaches to environmental protection and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

To this end, we have launched a global dialogue between industries, governments, and universities who can, together, inform evidence-based decisions for building the sustainable infrastructure communities need to support tourism. Our conversations also contribute to nations’ processes for implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Climate Agreement and SDG goals. 

Carbon Management



Tourism and Environmental Health in a Changing Climate:  The ISTI Framework for Tourism Destinations


The International Sustainable Tourism Initiative (ISTI) Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health undertook research on the ISTI Framework in Tunisia on Djerba Island and Tozeur with the support of GIZ, to test a science-based set of measures for destination authorities to manage their GhG emissions and the unaccounted-for costs of tourism growth, including energy, solid waste, waste water, water utility services and local land-use.

 The research demonstrated that 1) without further monitoring at the destination level, tourism will play an increasingly energy and resource intensive role which will not be consistent with Tunisia’s goals for the Paris agreement and 2) tourism has many unmonitored and unaccounted for impacts on local destinations that require measurement to guide municipal leaders on achieving goals to finance efficient destination economies to meet Sustainable Development Goals. 

Additional results will be shared in the forthcoming report on this site.

ISTI Framework Next Steps

The ISTI framework uncovers the indirect costs of tourism development and reveals to local authorities how to avoid growth without adequate recompense for supporting sustainable infrastructure in host countries.  It also takes an in-depth look at land-use changes and measures required to protect coastal tourism destinations from the impacts of climate change.

Local authorities will benefit in a number of ways. For example, the framework will:

  • Reveal the indirect costs of tourism growth, and the investment required to protect environmental health and local population well-being
  • Measure municipal costs for servicing tourism and guide decision making on policies and infrastructure
  • Help to develop strategic mitigation and adaptation plans to protect tourism economies and local populations when climate impacts worsen
  • Trigger international funding, subsidies, and impact investment for sustainable infrastructure projects, such as solar energy and alternative waste treatment for tourism areas
  • Create a new category of research based on empirical data to drive global research cooperation on destination planning

Contact Megan Epler Wood, Director of our International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, for more information.






Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. John Spengler 

Dr. Henry Lee

Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Henry Lee


Team Member: Sofia Fotiadou, Research Manager