What is the end effect of burning high-sulfur coal?
Acid rain and acidification of land and water in the surrounding region.
When high sulphur coal is burned in power plants some or all of the SO2 is often released into the atmosphere wherein it combines with water vapour to produce sulphuric acid. This acid then combines with water droplets and falls out as acid rain.
This acid rain then changes the pH of lakes and terrestrial ecosystems to become more acidic. This in turn, makes it very difficult for organisms who have evolved in a more neutral or basic pH to continue to survive.
Nitrogen oxides from coal plants also contribute to this problem. And, fine particulate matter often gets released into the atmosphere and falls out on the land and causes respiratory problems for humans and animals.
On the upside, both Canada, the U,S. and Europe have made considerable progress in solving this problem with the introduction of emissions trading and the requirement for SO2 scrubbers. Finally, both the U.S. and Canada are also in the process of phasing out coal-fired power plants over the coming decades.