Energy, climate, and national-security concerns are inextricably joined in the modern political environment, says former Democratic Colorado Sen. Gary Hart. This fact should elevate sound climate and energy policy to a top-tier issue in this year’s election, he said, for both politicians and voters.

“I think if ordinary, everyday Americans understood that we are sacrificing the lives of our sons and daughters to get somebody else’s oil to drive energy-inefficient vehicles that pollute the atmosphere, that would dramatize it a lot more,” Hart told Grist in an interview this morning. “I would hope that leaders in our country would let people know that we are in fact trading the lives of young people for a corrupt energy policy.”

Hart represented Colorado in the U.S. Senate from 1975 to 1987, and he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. Since then, he’s served as a consultant on national-security issues, focusing on homeland security and the environment. He’s currently a scholar in residence at the University of Colorado Denver and chair of the Council for a Livable World, and he serves as an advisor for the Presidential Climate Action Project.

Hart is appearing on a panel on climate change and energy policy Tuesday morning as part of the Rocky Mountain Roundtable series. He’ll be discussing PCAP’s Presidential Climate Action Plan [PDF] — a detailed policy outline intended to guide the incoming president.

“Foreign policy, climate and environment and energy policy, and military policy all arrive at the same place, and that’s the Persian Gulf,” said Hart. “The old days of saying, now we’re going to talk about the environment, and after that we’ll talk about energy, and after that we’ll talk about foreign policy, and after that we’ll talk about national security, those days are over. They all are inextricably intertwined.”

Hart also touched on the continuing partisan divide on the issue, which will be a challenge for the future president.

“It’s unfortunately too much a partisan issue. I wish more Republicans took it seriously,” said Hart. “Off and on, Sen. McCain has expressed some concern, but I don’t think he’s followed that up with much of a voting record. The objective should be to get rid of the partisanship, to get more Republicans and corporate America to take the issues seriously and to coalesce around an action plan.”