Coal-fired electricity generating facilities are major sources of air pollution. Emissions include: oxides of nitrogen (NOx); sulphur oxides (SOx); particulate matter (PM); and a variety of toxic pollutants (e.g., mercury). These emissions are associated with major health impacts (e.g., premature death, increased hospital emissions for patients with asthma and chronic lung disease) as well as environmental impacts (e.g., buildings, crops and ecosystems).
Coal-fired electricity generating facilities are also major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) and therefore are contributors to global climate change.
In 2006, the "Stern Review on of the Economics of Climate Change" identified the global cost of climate change to be as high as 20% of global GDP. In the same report, the cost of action was found to be as low as 1% of global GDP.