Environmental Impact of Steam Power
The environmental impact of steam power depends on what sort of steam turbine system is being used to create the steam.
Today, the three main systems used to create electricity from steam power are: nuclear power, coal power (fossil fuels), and concentrated solar power. Each steam power system has a different impact on the environment.
Using concentrated solar power to create steam energy will have the mildest impact on the environment because there will be no pollutants emitted from the system into the atmosphere except for perhaps during the construction of the system.
Using nuclear power to generate electricity from a steam turbine generator does emit carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air and water. There is also the small probability of a catastrophic disaster when dealing with nuclear energy. Aside from the risk of nuclear meltdown, nuclear reactors are release less common pollutants into the atmosphere than coal power plants. (learn more about nuclear power)
Coal power plants and burning fossil fuels to generate steam power also has a more negative impact on the environment that concentrated solar power. Coal and other fossil fuels release quite a bit of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Most of the electricity generated in the world comes from coal power or burning fossil fuels to turn a steam turbine generator.
The aggregate environmental impact of steam power is far worse than other sources of energy such as solar, wind, and hydro.